What exactly is Autism anyway?

The RDI program distinguishes between the 'core deficits' of autism, and what they call 'co-occuring conditions'.

The Core Deficits are what RDI treats. They include:

Emotional referencing.
An ASD person may be able to recognize and label emotions, but they still have a deficit in checking with someone, or knowing to read someone's face to see what they are thinking.

Social Co-regulation
Think of this as a social dance. ASD sufferers can follow a procedure and a script, but have trouble with the give and take of a regular, unpredictable conversation.

Declarative Communication
ASD people will use language as a means to an end - "Please give me that cookie." But they have a harder time sharing their experiences. "I really love chocolate chip cookies."

Relative Thinking
They can cope with things that are concrete and black and white. They love numbers and quantifiable things. But they have trouble with things that are dependent on variables or the situation at hand. Which is better, jam or peanut butter? Is Dad very cross, or only a little bit annoyed?

Flexible Thinking
They can understand rules and procedures, but being flexible about things is difficult for them. If you normally go to the toilet at preschool after morning tea, can you cope if you're taken before morning tea? What about if you walk a different way to the shops? Will you cope?

Past/Future Thinking
Most people have the ability to reflect on their past experiences, analyse them and use them to help make decisions for the future. People with ASD may lack this and be at a loss in their decision making.

The Co-occuring conditions are things that are often closely associated with autism. For example, the medical side of things - gut and digestion and diet issues. Or sensory challenges. Some autistic people have real problems processing smells or tastes, or distinguishing between noises. Then there are those who have fits or have 'stimming*' behaviours.

RDI doesn't treat these, but recommends that if they are becoming a 'block' to continuing progress, they should be looked at. For example, our consultant suggested that we look into Bright Eyes' diet, as she thought his development in the core deficits could really help from this. We did, and it has!

For us, the diet and biomedical treatments are helping get Bright Eyes' brain into the optimal shape possible to learn, through RDI, the things he has not learned yet because of the autism.

*Stimming means 'self-stimulation' behaviour and includes things like rocking, headbanging, walking in circles, flapping fingers and hands, walking on toes etc. Bright Eyes doesn't have these sorts of stimming behaviours. His are mostly verbal - repeating scripts. He also likes to hold things in his hands, particularly two objects that are the same size and shape - he lines them up with each other and compares them constantly.